County Code Amendment Seeks Housing In Commercial Zoning

SNOW HILL – A text amendment that would allow multi-family housing in a commercial zoning district is headed to the Worcester County Commissioners for consideration.

Last Thursday, the Worcester County Planning Commission voted unanimously to forward a text amendment that would allow multi-family dwellings in the C-3 commercial zoning district to the commissioners with a favorable recommendation.

“Overall, staff finds that there is a high demand for housing, especially workforce and affordable housing, and this amendment is an opportunity to increase the available stock,” the staff report presented to the commission reads.

Attorney Mark Cropper submitted the proposed text amendment, which would allow multi-family dwelling units as an accessory use to commercial development. The text amendment would require 65% of the net lot area be developed with commercial structures permitted in the C-3 district, leaving 35% for residential use.

Currently, multi-family units are allowed in the C-3 district but only if they are attached to the principal structure. There are also restrictions on the total amount of space that may be permitted for residential units based upon the amount of commercial square footage.

“The proposed amendment would allow the residential component to be detached from the commercial building,” a staff report reads.

C-3 zoning is only found in one area of the county — on the south side of Route 50 along Samuel Bowen Boulevard. Cropper said there were only five properties given that zoning classification and two were already in the process of being developed.

Since those properties were designated C-3 in 2009, Cropper said shopping practices had changed. Online shopping has increased in popularity while there is less demand for big box stores. Meanwhile, there’s a need for housing.

“There exists a shortage of affordable multi-family housing in Worcester County,” Cropper wrote on the text amendment application. “Recently, mixed use projects that combine residential and commercial uses on the same or adjoining properties has gained popularity…. Locating high density residential units adjoining or in close proximity to large scale commercial projects is very successful.”

He said a similar layout already existed in West Ocean City, where Seaside Village was located just east of the Ocean City outlets.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.